Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016): Movie Review

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Movie Poster, Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Aishwarya Rai
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016) By Karan Johar
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is an Indian romantic drama film written and directed by Karan Johar. The film is the sixth feature directed by Johar and his first since Student of the Year (2012). Ae Dil Hai Mushkil stars Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in pivotal roles. The movie features cameos from Fawad Khan, Lisa Hayden, Alia Bhatt, and Shah Rukh Khan. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is essentially the story of a young man named Ayan who is in search of true love in a selfish and materialistic world. The character is played by Ranbir Kapoor. Ayan is filthy rich and has all the time in the world to pursue his quixotic adventures. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is actually supposed to be an autobiographical work. While talking to film critic Raja Sen, Johar had said, “Twice in life, my love hasn’t been reciprocated and I know what it can feel like. So that emotion runs through the film... I told Ranbir that on some level, in some way, you are playing me... I feel that I’m the brand ambassador of heartbreak.” Come to think of it, it is not difficult to imagine a young Karan Johar waste away his life like the protagonist Ayan.  

But what’s difficult to imagine is a film about love that tends to depict human relationships with an outrageous sense of levity. Every character in the movie is utterly selfish. No one seems to care about anybody but oneself. Even the tertiary characters are mean and selfish. Maybe it is Johar’s cynicism. Even if it is cynicism it is certainly not consistent with what Johar is trying to achieve with the movie. He himself seems confused if it is actually love that he is trying to propagate through his egocentric characters. From what one gets to see in the movie it could be some kind of infatuation or lust but it is certainly not love. In other words, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is completely devoid of any feeling that can even be remotely termed as love. Although these characters keep talking about love, they are incapable of loving anyone except themselves. At first they all appear to be kind, loving, and friendly but wait till they remove their facades and reveal their true self. Do they behave so because of their loneliness and insecurity? Well, the fact is that they are too shallow to ever experience loneliness. In actuality, they are bored by their lives. Perhaps, they need company to escape their boredom. But even company is no good to them, for they always end up rediscovering boredom. If this is true then can we say that Johar succeeded in evoking Antonioni? Alas, we can’t! For, Johar certainly doesn’t achieve this by design. He attempts to make an out and out romantic film but ends up making a film that’s not even remotely romantic. Sadly, it is also not a tragedy by any means.    
Anushka Sharma and Ranbir Kapoor in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil
Anushka Sharma and Ranbir Kapoor in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is rife with homages to old Hindi film songs (Mohd. Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Nur Jahan… you name it). The characters’ mannerisms seem deeply influenced by the melodramatic ways propagated by the Bollywood films. Karan Johar doesn’t hesitate from making references to his own films and dialogues. It may look funny at times but it certainly is quite unbecoming of a seasoned filmmaker like him. He stills seems to be living in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Not much has changed about the way his films are made except that his characters are now quite open about their physical needs. Sex is no longer a taboo for them. There are moments in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil when it appears that Karan Johar is running short of ideas. The film runs high on clichés and yet one gets a feeling that Johar must have had a tough time trying to give the film some semblance of a closure. And so when he couldn’t think of anything better, he desperately introduced cancer as a plot devise. Another disturbing thing about Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is that the characters are drunk most of the time. One wonders how these characters end up making all the important decisions in their lives while being in a state of inebriation.
 Aishwarya Rai and Ranbir Kapoor in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Ranbir Kapoor in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

Overall, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is one of those films that show promise but ultimately disappoint. While Johar does a reasonable job as far as the movie’s direction is concerned, he fails miserably in the writing department. The weak writing fails to do justice to the talent on show. Ranbir Kapoor, who is known to be quite choosy when it comes to picking roles, must have given his nod for Ae Dil Hai Mushkil in the hope that it would help break the lull after a series of misses and near misses that have shaken his career during the last couple of years or so. Although, his role in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil bears some similarities to his roles in Tamasha, Rockstar, and Wake Up Sid, it seems to lack in terms of substance. For some strange reasons the character doesn’t develop as much as it should have. As for Anushka, she seems quite comfortable at playing strong feministic characters. She exudes an air of chutzpah that few actresses in the industry can equal. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan makes her presence felt during her short appearance. But, unfortunately, the romance between Aishwarya and Ranbir doesn’t live up to the hype created by the rushes. Fawad Khan’s role is far from significant. Wonder what the fuss was about. As for Shah Rukh Khan, he looks charismatic during his brief appearance wherein he makes an important remark about one-sided love. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil has its moments but it ultimately fails to leave any lasting impact owing to its weak narrative. Still if you are desperately looking for some escapist entertainment you can certainly give it a try.

Rating: 5/10

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